Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Gavaskar Ponting spat

Sunil Gavaskar made the following comment -

Australia's come-uppance at the hands of England and New Zealand has gladdened the hearts of not just the other aspirants for the World Cup but also the followers of the game. There is not the slightest doubt that in the last decade or so the Aussies have been awesome in batting, bowling and fielding which has taken them to the top of the cricketing ladder in both Test and limited overs cricket. But they have also been awful in the way they have sometimes behaved on the field much to the chagrin of the traditional fans of the game. Unlike the West Indian teams of the 1970s and 1980s which dominated world cricket in much the same way as the Australians are doing now, the Australians are not popular winners. The Windies were feared for the ferocity of their attack and the aggression of their batsmen but at the end of the playing day the West Indian player was not only admired but also liked. They went about their job in a no fuss manner and hardly had anything to say to the opponents, unlike the Aussies who have plenty to say and seldom in a humorous way. Banter works, abuse doesn't. (Link)

Ricky Ponting's response

"We all know the way he played his cricket, don't we? If he is talking about us, what about the way India have played their cricket over the last few years? I know who I would rather be going to watch. Have a look at how many Test matches they have won. He [Gavaskar] has been a big part of that, he has been a selector and he has been on the coaching committee. They might want to start to look at the way they play their own cricket rather than looking at us. For him to go on about behaviour, not too many captains have dragged their teams off the field, either. I don't mind if 'Mr Perfect' comes out and goes on about our team, I know we are all not perfect. We are not going to keep everyone happy 100% of the time. But for some of these guys that have done it all themselves, it's pretty high and mighty for them to say that."

Ponting admitted he had been reported "more than anybody" since becoming captain - he was found guilty of dissent twice in 2006 - but returned to Gavaskar and recalled his attempted walk-off at the MCG in 1980-81. (Link)

Ponting has two arguments here.
1) He believes Gavaskar, who has been on the coaching committee and a selector, has had a major role to play in India's dismal performance in the last 12 tests, of which India won only 3.
2) Gavaskar threatened to walk off the field in a test match once. So he is no Mr Perfect and should not be lecturing others on behaviour.

Gavaskar has given a reply. But before we go into that, here are a few FACTS to ponder over.

Can a selector or a person on the coaching committee make the team win? I think Ponting should ask Greg Chappell if he has been the reason for India's dismal performance. The only thing i fear, if India does well at the ongoing World Cup, is this Chappell dude, a renowned specialist in crappy tactics to win games(video), taking the credit. He has had no notable coaching achievements, and the guys at BCCI were perhaps impressed by the smooth talk and authoritative tone of voice, and with his playing achievements to boot, they figured he was the best guy for the job of Indian coach. Paul Wilson, a South Australian test cricketer, believes "he was a poor coach when it came to looking after a group of people."

Gavaskar has had good things to say about Ponting before. In his comments, he was not targeting Ponting, but the entire Australian team as a whole. Ponting could not resist taking a personal cheapshot. Ponting is No Mr. Perfect. When was Gavaskar fined for dissent? I checked here and here and here and here and here but the star of the show is Ricky Ponting in each case. How many cricketers have had alcohol problems and pub-fights and illegal bat issues with the ICC, besides being fined for dissent?

India have been at the receiving end for far too long. The Australians say they will get over it. Will they? Ever?

Now getting back to Gavaskar. His retort

Some day, some other hot-head guy might actually get down and you know whack somebody who abuses him. There's the example of the late David Hookes. Would the Australians who use that kind of language on the field, and not all of them do, in a bar and would they get away with it? Would they have a fist coming at their face or not? The reason the walk off took place was simply because I was abused by the Australians. Let me also come back to what he [Ponting] said about the way I played my cricket and I do not know what he's looking at. When he talks about the Indian team not having won matches, we are not talking about winning matches here, we are talking about behavior on the field. The West Indians were popular winners, there was an affection about the West Indians players in spite of the fact that they were beating you in three days, they [West Indies] did not abuse the opponents. They did not have anything to say to the opponents. When they were dominating world cricket the West Indians did not resort to personal abuse on the field, they just played the game hard, they were very tough competitors but there was nothing untoward in their behaviour towards their opponents. West Indian players always had a smile on their face when they came in at the end of day's play to talk with you and to commiserate when you lost, you could see that there was no arrogance there. Cricket lovers all over the world wanted the West Indies teams to get back on their feet and start winning again. (Link)

Here is what Cricinfo has to say about the Gavaskar walk-off which Ponting pointed out so well..

In February 1981, Australia met India at Melbourne in the final game of a three-match series which Australia led 1-0. Gavaskar, India's captain, had struggled from the off, dismissed for a duck by Lillee in the opening Test at Sydney and following that with scores of 10, 23 and 5. At the MCG that poor run continued - he made 10 as India conceded a first-innings deficit of 182.

The series had been dogged by some inconsistent umpiring which the Indians felt had largely gone against them. The inexperienced Rex Whitehead, who made his debut in the first Test and stood in all three matches, was singled out for blame. In the aftermath of the Lillee-Gavaskar incident, Shahid Durrani, India's manager, cited seven decisions made by Whitehead which had gone against India and, he said, caused them to become angry.

Second time around at the MCG, India put up a much better fist of things. Opening with Chetan Chauhan, Gavaskar had finally begun to find his form and was enjoying a feeling of "confidence and optimism" as they put on 165 for the first wicket.

But then came the fireworks. Lillee jagged one back into Gavaskar, who was on 70, and appealed for leg-before. That the ball was hitting was not in doubt, but Gavaskar was adamant that he had edged it. Whitehead disagreed, and gave him out. "We were sure," Lillee recalled. "The only one who had a problem with it was Sunny who, until that day, had never scored runs against me."

Gavaskar stood his ground long enough for his anger to be apparent, slapping his bat into his pad for good measure. "He spat the dummy right out of the pram," Lillee explained. He further antagonised the fuming Gavaskar by advancing down the pitch, pointing at the pad and offering a few choice words of advice.

As Gavaskar reluctantly started to leave, Lillee made one comment too many and Gavaskar snapped, returning to the crease and instructing Chauhan to walk off the pitch with him. A bemused Chauhan did as he was told, but at the boundary edge the batsmen were met by Durrani and Bapu Nadkarni, the assistant manager. Chauhan was persuaded to return to resume his innings, while Gavaskar was ushered into the pavilion. But Chauhan's concentration was wrecked, and he added only a few more runs before holing out to Bruce Yardley in the covers for 85, to give Lillee his second wicket of the innings.

Durrani's quick intervention saved the incident from becoming far more serious. Had Gavaskar succeeded in his walkoff then it was not inconceivable that India could have forfeited the Test.

"I was infuriated by the injustice of it all," Gavaskar told reporters. "Whitehead has stood in all three Tests, and many bad decisions by him have gone against us."

Lillee was in no doubt what was behind Gavaskar's histrionics. "I know from what his team-mates told me that he was desperate to score a hundred against me. It was frustration at getting so close to his goal which made him blow up."(Link)

We have verbal abuse, also termed as sledging. We have woofing. Maybe the Aussies can introduce a form of kick-boxing on the cricket field, and give it a fancy name, and say its just part of being aggressive. The Aussies have been known to mentally disintegrate opponents on the field and off the field with mind games. Sometimes even resorting to racial abuse. So when a blow comes your way, and you cant duck out, you must be brave enough to take it.

Just to put things in perspective, Gavaskar is no Ganguly. When Ganguly gives back, its payback time in full measure. Gavaskar's views on sledging can be known for a speech of his here. But Ganguly belongs to a more aggressive, in-your-face school of thought. Gavaskar is the gentlemanly character, the one who is seen, as the more sedate and patient guy in the pack. His comments are balanced comments where he affirms that in the last decade or so the Aussies have been awesome in batting, bowling and fielding which has taken them to the top of the cricketing ladder in both Test and limited overs cricket. There can be no two ways about it. Just like there are no two ways about the Aussie behaviour on and off the field.


Anonymous said...

Mr Jason

IF a person has alcohol problems or any other personal problems, it is his personal problem.
It is what he does on the field that matters.
Clearly understand what you talk before you start talking.

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